Given the fact that Mitt Romney passed basically the same plan as Governor of Massachusetts and is desperately trying to ignore that now, and given that the individual provisions in the plan for the most part are more popular than the polling on the Affordable Care Act as a whole, I don't understand how anyone could believe that it's beneficial for President Obama to ignore the law rather than campaigning on it.
But that's what we got from Savannah Guthrie on this Sunday's Meet the Press along with her repeating the Republicans' talking point that Romney can now campaign on Obama being a big tax and spend liberal and claim the administration "raised taxes, a national healthcare tax." Never mind that the penalties in Mitt Romney's plan were harsher than the fees for the insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act and that it's not a tax, it's a penalty regardless of whether the IRS is collecting the money or not.
This is good for Mitt Romney if our media allows it to be and this is the kind of "reporting" we get on the matter, where the politics and who said what matters more than the substance of the arguments, which campaign is lying constantly and if they're not going to explain to Americans just what is in the new law instead of spending endless hours debating the politics around it.
The Obama campaign could be doing a better job of explaining to the public what's in the law and getting some better surrogates out there on a regular basis doing just that, but the media has utterly fallen down on their jobs when it comes to properly explaining what the Affordable Care Act does and does not do. Gregory and Guthrie just gave us another typical example of that here.
If Republicans are going to campaign on repealing the law, the media should explain to the public what exactly it is they're campaigning against and be specific, and make them have to answer for it.
Transcript below the fold.
DAVID GREGORY: But there's a question of political will, Savannah. Is this what Republicans want to spend their time on? You heard Governor Jindal say, "Yes." They won't do the exchanges or Medicaid expansion. But is this what House and Senate Republicans want to fight about?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, perhaps they do. I'm not sure the presidential campaigns want to dwell on healthcare, either the Obama campaign or the Romney campaign. It's so fascinating because of course the legal victory went to President Obama but in some sense the political victory went to the Republicans.
Romney now has a new argument he can deploy which is that President Obama raised taxes, a national healthcare tax. That's something we've already heard Republicans say in the wake of this decision. So they may want to talk about it, but on the other hand I think both of the presidential campaigns recognize that the economy is the issue that voters care about and having this endless litigation-- we've already had it in the Supreme Court, but then in the public arena over healthcare, it's probably not wise for either campaign.
DAVID GREGORY: Are we going to do this in-- there's the context here. The fiscal cliff. Tax hikes. Medicare, Medicaid. Are we going to have this healthcare debate in that context?
EUGENE ROBINSON: I just don't think so. Look, for the Republican base, I think they'll love it, but for independents who are going to decide this election, I think there's a been there, done that kind of feel to this whole discussion. And I just don't think the Romney campaign, if it's smart, is going to spend a whole lot of time re-litigating healthcare in an attempt to get voters--
DAVID GREGORY: But here's where--
EUGENE ROBINSON: --who are going to--
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And this is where the cam--
DAVID GREGORY: Here's where I disagree, though-- Savannah?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Yeah, in a campaign issue, I think, David, to the extent they talk about healthcare at all they want to frame it in this larger economic note that the healthcare bill is bad policy, the Romney folks say, because it's huge expenditure. They want to frame it in terms of the economy, not really talk about healthcare on those terms.
DAVID GREGORY: But there's a larger issue, which is what has government done? When it bailed out the banks, the economy tanked. What has government done to either help or make things worse? Romney's going to make an argument that healthcare was an example of the government making things worse, not better. And that's why we need a different choice.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, that's what's so interesting about the healthcare debate. People have these perceptions about the healthcare law. Many, many provision. I mean its most fundamental reforms haven't even gone into effect yet. So has it made it better or worse? We don't know. Right now it's kind of a parade of horribles.